Photo of George Patterson

George Patterson is an Associate based in the New York office. His practice focuses on all aspects of employment law, including discrimination, harassment, wage and hour issues, and other employment-related litigation and counseling. He also represents clients on labor and executive compensation matters. Prior to joining Mintz Levin, George practiced as an associate with other large firms, handling large-scale employment and commercial litigation matters.

Employers implement employee training programs for a variety of reasons, such as furthering professional development and improving poor performance, ensuring compliance with information security protocols and competence using company systems and reducing legal exposure by ensuring that employees receive formal instruction on equal employment, discrimination and harassment policies. And just as a rigorous practice schedule can ensure that a team brings its “A” game to the NCAA tournament, companies that invest the time and resources to train their employees properly stand a greater chance of avoiding many of the problems that often result from a poorly trained workforce, such as excessive turnover, decreased morale and costly discrimination and harassment lawsuits.

Continue Reading March Preparedness: Inadequate Employee Training May Cause Even the Best Employers to Suffer an Upset

Harassment has long been an Achilles’ heel of the workplace. Believe it or not, like the NCAA’s tournament TV ratings, the number of harassment-related lawsuits has held rather steady since the 1990s!  And like most NCAA tournament games, the workplace can often be fast-paced and exhilarating, but it requires participants to play by the rules and when conduct goes out of bounds, participants must be benched or even ejected.  In this regard, an employer must ensure that it has (1) the right players-personnel; and (2) systems in place not just for a successful season here and there, but for sustainable success over time that allows it to compete for the championship year after year.  So what does this look like?

Continue Reading March Grabness: Lessons from the (Basketball) Court: Avoiding Personal Fouls, Violations and Time Outs in the Workplace

This time of year usually marks the sports netherworld between the Super Bowl and the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament, which is better known as March Madness. This lull provides employers with an excellent opportunity to contemplate the issues that March Madness creates in their workplace. We explore some of those issues below.

Continue Reading Does March Madness = Workplace Madness? Some Thoughts on the Legality of NCAA Bracket Pools, the Tournament’s Effect on the Workplace, and of course, a Rendition of One Shining Moment (UPDATED)

Our friends at Privacy & Security Matters recently posted an important update on the New York State Department of Financial Services’ new cybersecurity regulations. The regulations, which became effective March 1, 2017, impose a series of requirements on banks, insurers and financial services firms as well as on third party service providers that have access to these entities’ nonpublic information, such as IT vendors, law firms and accounting firms. Among other requirements, covered entities must designate chief information security officers within their organizations, create detailed response plans for dealing with security breaches and institute employee training programs. The regulations establish several compliance deadlines and we strongly encourage employers to take a proactive approach in revising their policies and practices to meet these new obligations.

Over the next two weeks we will release our Year in Review segment, which will look at the key labor & employment law developments from 2016 in New York, the DC Metro Area, Massachusetts, and California while offering our thoughts about 2017.  Today we kick off this segment with New York.  In addition, please join us in NYC on April 6, 2017 for Mintz Levin’s Third Annual Employment Law Summit as we address some of the key labor & employment issues impacting employers in 2017.  Register here

2016 brought big changes for New York State and City employers, including expansive new discrimination protections and substantial increases in the minimum wage and exempt salary thresholds.  While New York employers who successfully navigated 2016’s rush of legislative, regulatory and judicial obstacles might feel they’ve earned the right to shift their focus back from compliance issues to running their businesses, they should not lose sight of the additional challenges expected in 2017.

Continue Reading 2016 New York Employment Law Year In Review

The New York State Department of Labor has adopted regulations clarifying employers’ rights and obligations when implementing policies that limit the discussion of wages in the workplace. Under New York Labor Law section 194(4), an employer may not prohibit employees from discussing wages, but may establish “reasonable workplace and workday limitations on the time, place and manner for inquiries about, discussion of, or the disclosure of wages.”  The DOL’s new regulations provide guidance on the permissible scope of policies that limit wage discussions as well as the notice employers must provide to employees about such policies.

Continue Reading New York DOL Adopts Regulations Governing Employment Policies that Limit Employee Discussion of Wages

Since a Texas federal judge blocked the U.S. Department of Labor’s overtime rule from taking effect in November, human resource managers, payroll professionals and employment attorneys (including over here at Employment Matters) have been abuzz about the fact that, at least for now, employers do not need to make sweeping changes to their compensation practices to comply with the rule.  What has been less discussed, however, is the impact on New York employers of the New York State Department of Labor’s amendments to New York’s Wage Orders, which become effective on Saturday, December 31, 2016, and which will, among other things, significantly increase the State’s minimum wage rate as well as its the minimum salary thresholds for individuals classified as exempt executives and administrative employees.

The NYSDOL had proposed these changes several months ago and the comment period ended back on December 3rd.  But the final rule was issued just yesterday, unchanged from its proposed form.  With the clock ticking, New York employers must and should pay immediate attention to these changes and should act quickly to fulfill their ongoing notice and posting obligations while adjusting compensation levels accordingly.  We summarize the Wage Order amendments below.

Continue Reading New York State Minimum Wage Rate and Exemption Salary Thresholds Set to Increase

In a previous post we discussed the Seventh Circuit’s decision in Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College, in which a three-judge panel concluded that Title VII did not protect an employee from discrimination based on her sexual orientation. The court recently granted the employee’s petition for en banc review and agreed to rehear argument in the case before all of the court’s judges.

The Hively decision was notable for the court’s struggle to follow precedent declining to extend Title VII to sexual orientation claims while acknowledging that district court cases and a recent EEOC ruling that rejected such precedent had actually demonstrated superior legal reasoning. Many observers believe it is only a matter of time until a federal appeals court extends Title VII’s protections to sexual orientation claims. We will be monitoring these developments and will keep you apprised of whether the Seventh Circuit takes the opportunity to become the first U.S. circuit court to do so.

An employer’s decision to rescind an African American applicant’s job offer after she refused to comply with a race-neutral grooming policy that prohibited her from wearing her hair in dreadlocks did not constitute race discrimination in violation of Title VII, ruled the 11th Circuit. Notably, the court declined to adopt the EEOC’s expansive view that Title VII’s protections extend to practices that are “historically, physiologically and culturally associated with … race” and held that “Title VII protects persons in covered categories with respect to their immutable characteristics, but not their cultural practices.”

Continue Reading Employer’s No Dreadlock Policy Did Not Violate Title VII, Says Eleventh Circuit

In a carefully reasoned but ultimately restrained opinion the Seventh Circuit held that Title VII does not prohibit discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation. While declining to become the first circuit court to extend Title VII to sexual orientation claims, the court acknowledged at length the persuasive force of a recent EEOC administrative decision and similar district court rulings noting the logical fallacy of enforcing Title VII’s protections against discrimination on the basis of gender nonconformity while permitting sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace to continue.

Continue Reading Seventh Circuit Holds Title VII Does Not Prohibit Sexual Orientation Discrimination, But Acknowledges Inherent Flaws in Precedent Underlying its Holding